Innovation & Design

Stranglehold


"Inspector Tequila! I thought I told you not to go in there alone!"

"I didn't go in there alone. I brought friends."

John Woo's Stranglehold is all about. In the game, Tequila (the hero who previously appeared in Woo's classic film Hard-Boiled) shoots first and asks quest...all right, so he never asks questions, he just keeps shooting. Tequila sets out to solve a case that involves not only two rival Chinese gangs, but also the Russian mob. That means no shortage of targets to blast.

Don't expect a strategic experience, ala Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. Stranglehold sticks to arcade basics. The game provides an overwhelming amount of fun; it manages to be just as much about style as it is substance, which comes in handy during the more difficult stages.

Players can run into a room and shoot everything in sight, but Stranglehold offers rewards for using style. For instance, objects hanging overhead, like neon signs in the city or rock formations in the mountains, can be shot, causing them to tumble down on unsuspecting bad guys. In addition, a small "Tequila Time" meter shifts the game into "bullet time", turning the screen blood red as the inspector targets his opponents. Sometimes it turns on automatically, mostly when another object such as a banister or a table comes into play. This leads to some of the more lavish kills in the game, rewarding the player with stars that add energy to the Tequila Bombs system in the corner of the screen.

The Tequila Bombs come in handy, especially when the stage becomes cluttered with maniacal gunrunners. The first stage refills lost health while the second offers Precision Aim, slowing the game down so Tequila can get a lead on his opponent. The camera then follows the bullet all the way to its destination, making said criminal gush in an arterial spray. The third Tequila Bomb is a temporary onslaught, where Tequila runs rampant with a selected weapon. The last stage results in a stylish spin, with every bad guy in sight dying as a result.

Last but not least, there are the "bullet time" segments. In portions of the game, Tequila will find himself surrounded by enemies. In slow motion, he dodges incoming bullets while killing his foes. These stages provide plenty of thrills, especially in later missions when the bad guys fire off six or seven rounds, forcing Tequila to bob and weave like Lennox Lewis.

All of this, along with the occasional mounted gun stage and "protect the innocent" segments combine to form an enthralling experience. It ends roughly eight to ten hours later, but gamers looking for a bigger challenge can play on the hard difficulty setting. Stranglehold also has a multiplayer mode, but it feels rushed. Players can take part in Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, using shooting skills in an attempt to hit the Leaderboards. Unfortunately, Tequila Time and Bombs don't work that well in this mode.

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